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Experience pays off for plane pilot Craig Pulliam, who landed on I-75

6:26 PM, Aug 23, 2012   |    comments
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Video: Experience pays off for I-75 plane pilot

Craig Pulliam, shortly after he was able to land his plane on the median of Interstate 75.
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Gibsonton, Florida - Traffic crawled along I-75 for hours Thursday.  Lanes were closed and cars slowed as drivers, cameras in hand, craned to see an unusual sight.

A small plane was resting in the grassy median. Nearby, the pilot and his passengers were not very talkative, but were OK. They declined to speak with the media.

The single-engine Piper took off from Peter O. Knight Airport about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, but it hadn't gone far when warning lights in the cockpit went on-electrical problems, losing oil.

And that's when pilot Charles "Craig" Pulliam started eyeing I-75 as a landing strip.

On the way down the plane clipped a power line, but Pulliam still managed to land safely on the shoulder of the northbound lanes.

"This is a little unusual. I wouldn't say it's a bad situation, there's no injuries, which is outstanding," said Hillsborough Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Jim Chastain at the scene. "It could have been definitely a lot worse."

Once the plane was taxiing on the ground, a large sign along the roadway tore off its left wing, causing a minor fuel spill.

After that, perhaps the bigger problem was just the traffic tie-ups.

"It has messed up the morning rush-hour traffic. There's a lot of onlookers that are curious as to what's going on," said David Powell of the Florida Highway Patrol.

By mid-afternoon, the wings were taken off the plane and it was hauled away. Its owned by Panacea Enterprises of Tampa. Company officials did not return phone messages requesting comment.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol report, Pulliam's passengers were Walter Womack, 50, of Spring Hill and William Sisson, 58, of Tampa.

Pulliam, a 64-year-old pilot from Valrico, has decades of flying experience. And pilots who know him are not surprised this emergency landing turned out so well.

"Craig's a good stick", said Richard Campion, a commercial pilot flying out of Peter O. Knight. "That means a guy that instinctively knows what to do and his body's doing it, before his brain's even thinking about it."

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